It is Friday lunchtime, and my family have joined the throng of holidaymakers piling onto an aeroplane preparing to leave London for Bangkok. We’re laden with backpacks, pillows, teddy bears and tantrums as we battle our way back towards row 37.
It should be a scene of joy and relaxation at the beginning of a ten-day family holiday, but tempers are already frayed amongst the senior members of the party.
"That terminal building was horrendous," I yell to my partner as we pass a smiling steward wishing us a pleasant flight at the entrance to the aeroplane.
“Well, it is half-term!” she shouts back.
We’ve already spent forty odd quid on a truly dreadful breakfast back at the terminal building, which I’m tempted to point out was because my partner ignored my preferred choice of restaurant, but hold fire due to the thunder developing across her face.
We need to find our seats.
We’ve already upset several passengers as we bundle our way through business class; those refined people enjoying warm towels and champagne, waiting for that curtain to be drawn.
Our two children, already fed up with life before they’ve even boarded the aeroplane, had long since dumped their handy backpack/booster seat combos onto us.
"I told you not to buy those booster seats,” I yell.
“They'll be useful!" mother growls back.
Finally we reach row 37 and then during an excruciating 45 minutes before take-off, I deal with repeated requests from family members to retrieve bottles of water, crayons, iPads, stickers and socks from the overhead lockers, whilst fending off the glares of surrounding passengers ruing their luck at having to sit next to us lot for the next 12 hours.
We finally take our seats and a calm briefly breaks out. I’m sitting across the aisle from the rest of my family. I’m quietly delighted with the arrangement and for a while I successfully avoid eye contact with members of my family. For a while, sitting still, staring at a blank screen, it feels like I’ve arrived in a utopia.
Shortly after take off I can’t resist but take a peek at my family only to find mother gesticulating frantically towards me. "Their TVs don't work,” she mouths.
“What do you want me to do about it?” I mouth back.
“Can you get up and try and fix them?” she shouts back.
My hearts sinks.
Now I’m a TV repair man.
Two rows of TVs out of the entire aeroplane aren't working and they just happen to be where my family are sitting.
Twin four-year-olds on an aeroplane for 12 hours with no TV. Imagine the prospect!
“Can’t they use their iPads?” I shout, desperately not wanting to stand up.
With the vast majority of passengers now watching either Mr Bean or Ted2 the movie, my month-long careful preparations maxing up their iPads with CBeebies, Minecraft and movies was simply no substitute for audio and video onDemand on a 5-inch screen with a grainy picture and terrible sound.
They wanted what everybody else had.
A polite steward arrives and offers to “reset the TV’s and see if that works.”
“That’s good” I beamed to mother, nervously. But we both knew that really meant, “You’re going to have to sit there and suffer for 12 hours my friends.”
Two hours into the flight, and I’m already suffering a pang of boredom. I get up to try and walk it off and nearly bump into our steward who has arrived with trays of food for our two. He’s the same steward who has failed to reset the TVs and clearly he’s avoiding eye contact with me.
Unfortunately for him, the carrier’s well-intentioned ‘feed kids first’ policy doesn't take into account that our youngest refuses to eat anything at the best of times. And not wishing to break the habit of a so far short lifetime, she makes it patently clear that she’s not going to stop watching Hey Duggee on the iPad.
With the table finally forced into place, mother attempts to spoon feed our daughter around a large pair of pink headphones and an iPad clutched inches from her face. Losing her will to live, mother unleashes a stream of venomous language which puts me in no doubt that it’s my turn to hold the spoon.
It must be a curious sight to watch a man attempt to spoon feed a child across the aisle of an aeroplane. And, by now starving myself, it seemed to cause somewhat more distress when I attempted to eat my daughter’s unwanted breakfast.
Halfway into our 12-hour flight, I feel my partner staring at me as if she's approaching the 25th-mile of a marathon. So far I have avoided her stares or requests to swap seats by either feigning sleeping or by pointing at the illuminated fasten your seat belt sign. This time though, I’ve been caught out.
"Can we swap seats? Just let me sleep for a while,” she pleads across the aisle.
I did feel sorry for her. Our son passed out hours ago after enjoying, unaided, a sumptuous breakfast whilst watching CBeebies on his iPad. Meanwhile our four-year-old daughter is showing no signs of putting the iPad down. She could go on like this for hours!
I’m secretly delighted that I am sitting across the aisle from the rest of my family and am not willing to relinquish my position of safety just yet.
“Let’s go for a wander,” I say to my daughter.
She raises an eyebrow suggesting that she's perfectly happy doing what she’s been doing for the past six hours thank you very much dad, but that a short walk would be perfectly acceptable.
She unshackles herself from headphones, blankets and furry animals and proceeds to stride up the aisle without so much as a care in the world.
Mother smiles with relief, our son continues to snooze away in a peaceful world of his own and I still control my prized seat.
One could mistaken this for a family embarking on a holiday.